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The great heating debate, a hot topic at SPLASH!

May 18th, 2022

This SPLASH! Pool & Spa Trade Show there will be two Great Debates – panel discussions on topics of importance to the industry, featuring leaders in the particular fields.

One is A Hot Topic – Raising a Standard, looking at questions around residential swimming pool heating including how the new standards will impact the sector, and what are the best choices for the particular consumer applications.

Panellists include Callum Ross, general manager Boss Solar; Tim Martin, general manager EvoHeat; Rob Sterland, product manager Pentair; Colin Mauger, director Supreme Heating; and Tom Boadle, general manager Sunbather. The mediator will be SPASA CIO Luke Daly.

Below is a preview of the presentations of some of the panellists.

Callum Ross, Boss Solar

 The new heating standards

I am delighted with the increase to the minimum recommended coverage for thermal solar pool heating. I believe we need to be customer focused in everything we do. This type of change will drive customer outcomes in a positive direction, delighting more and more pool owners which in turn increases buyer advocacy. In also draws consistency between the standard, the theory and the practice, removing any ambiguity that may confuse potential buyers and lead to distrust.

How should the right heater for the right job be considered?

It’s essential when advising a client on heating solutions that we first aim to understand the customers’ expectations and desired pool usage. Are they recreational users? Is the pool intended to add to their fitness regime? Or is the pool perhaps for rehabilitation or hydrotherapy? These applications all have different heating requirements. Understanding the application is critical to ensuring the client has years of enjoyment from the pool and that the heating solution meets both the desired use and the expectation. Location and installation requirements should also be considered.

Our industry needs to avoid steering pool owners into a decision that suits an agenda. We need to listen and give them a solution that best suits their individual requirements.

How should data be presented to consumers about their heating needs and projected outcomes?

As an industry, we need to present data in a standardised and consistent way that allows pool owner to compare apples with apples. This data also needs to be clear, simple, and free from jargon or asterisks.

The information provided to customers should be comprehensive, including all options. Too often consumers find out about alternative options after the fact and are left disappointed. As the trusted advisors, we need to act as such.

What should our industry know/do that they may not be right now to help us all improve?

We need to consider the future sustainability of our industry. We need to be considering things beyond short term satisfactions and ease of installation. Listening to our clients’ needs rather than our own will ensure pool owners are satisfied not just in the initial excited phase when the pool is a new shiny toy, but in five years’, 10 years’ and 20 years’ time. We need new and existing pool owners to have an ongoing affinity with their pool, ensuring buyer advocacy and positive promotion of our industry.

Tim Martin, EvoHeat

The last 10 years has seen a massive upsurge in heating technologies and suppliers within the market. Having specified heating standards in place will help our industry and pool owners make better informed decisions about their heating needs.

A pool is a significant investment, and without proper temperature control pool owners can only utilise it for less than 20 per cent of the year. Better education around pool heating solutions and having standards in place will help reduce the amount of false and misleading information being made to the industry and pool owners.

The industry always talks about heating, but it is not just heating. As an industry we should be talking about temperature control – this provides year-round results in all weather conditions and environments.

Last year, almost 20 per cent of our pool heating enquiries were pool owners looking to upgrade their existing heating technology because it didn’t meet their heating needs. One of the most common issues we see in the industry is the wrong solution or the wrong size heater installed.

There are many factors that need to be considered to determine the correct solution for pool owners – pool size, desired temperature, swim season, daily usage, weather conditions, shading, the use of covers and the ability of solar power. These are all important factors that need to be considered to recommend the right heating solution.

To ensure confidence and to reassure our customers they are purchasing the right solution, we provide a detailed pool heat evaluation report that outlines their expected pool temperatures, swim season, estimated operating times and costs based on their specific requirements.

Robert Sterland, Pentair

The new heating standards

The new heat pump standard AS5352 is all about making sure the consumer gets the right product for the application. Across the industry we find unhappy consumers left with an uncomfortable pool, simply because they were sold a heat pump that was too small or not installed correctly.

The new standard standardises testing and performance ratings, so consumers can compare apples with apples and so marketers cannot inflate performance figures to boost sales with inadequate product to the detriment of our industry. It also describes in detail how to calculate the required heater size for a particular application, so that the consumer is sold the right product for their pool.

In addition to this, the standard also details best practice for the installation of heat pumps so that pool builders and installers have a consistent reference and so that the heat pumps will perform as intended. This standardisation of best practice raises the bar and helps with the further professionalisation of our industry.

How should the right heater for the right job be considered?

Listen to the clients wants and needs. When do they want to swim? Summer, spring/autumn, all year round? What temperature would they like the pool at? Look at the available space for the equipment, including roof space. Ask the customer if they want to install PV in future, if they do not already. This will guide the selection of the heating type. Gas heaters are small and have incredible heat output, ideal for on-demand heating and heating in cold weather. Heat pumps are very efficient and will provide heat output in all seasons, but in cold climates larger units are required which increases the up-front costs. For the cost of running a circulation pump, solar provides free heat energy from the sun, but it is dependent on the sun shining and takes up roof space. Often more than one heater type is needed to meet the clients’ needs.

How should data be presented to consumers about their heating needs and projected outcomes?

First, use the standard as the basis for these calculations and then at least the consumer is getting information based on the science. Second, explain that the performance and efficiency is still influenced by the environment so you can expect some variability when unseasonable weather occurs.

What should our industry know/do that they may not be right now (to help us all improve)?

Adopt the new standard. Provide heat pump ratings at the specified test points.

Colin Mauger, Supreme Heating

 Our swimming pools are predominately outdoors and are used seasonally, typically on the warmer sunny days.

Traditional heating solutions of solar pool heating in most cases has more than met customer expectations. The energy is free and ensures the overall cost of owning and operating a pool is minimised.

The market has shifted with a surge of popularity towards heat pumps. From our position – on a retail level around Australia 80 per cent of our sales are solar and 20 per cent are heat pumps. On a trade level it is the other way round.

Perceived value for the pool owner is in and around low operating costs and sustainable/responsible heating solutions.

Perceived value at point of sale of the pool is controlled by the pool builder and about the convenience of the package (ease and control of the sizing and installation).

So, what is the right choice? Are we enhancing consumer advocacy to ensure continued industry growth, and will we have the support of the government?

Inverter heat pumps rely heavily on the pool owner consistently keeping the pool cover on. This is not happening and presents problems for the pool cover and pool shell. The trade and consumer need better education – fact sheets – running costs – PV solar requirements to run a heat pump – recovery costs when the cover is left off overnight etc.

The energy used to run a heat pump is unnecessarily undermining the solar PV panels purpose and investment of the government into their rebate program.

Embodied carbon energy is worth discussing – why build a renewable PV system, deliver and install to run a fossil fuel heat pump when a proven renewable solar system was available? We are a long way from supporting nett zero emissions.

Heat pumps can provide a suitable solution for spas, daily swimmers and sites that do not allow solar to be installed (roof difficulties, shade, roof access, roof space and aesthetics).

Pool builders, consultants and suppliers should be accountable and be able to demonstrate responsible heating solutions based on individual sites. We should explore the possibility of having to submit a projected running cost for the pool as a requirement of SPASA.

Hierarchy of consideration should be – solar – heat pump – gas. With a pool cover used wherever possible.

Register Now

Be sure to get along to see the great debate in person and enjoy the lively discussions at SPLASH! from June 22-23, 2022 at the Gold Coast Convention & Exhibition Centre Broadbeach, Queensland.

Caption: What are the best heating options for backyard swimming pools? Image: EvoHeat

By Chris Maher
SPLASH! Magazine
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